By Spc. Gregory J. Argentieri
173rd Airborne Brigade
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan national army soldiers and paratroopers from Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment air assaulted into the Narang Valley on the evening of, May 16, for a scheduled 24-hour mission in Kunar province, Afghanistan.
A part of Operation Rock Penetrator, the ANA soldiers took the lead role in this mission, which was to search and clear Bidal Village, designated "Objective Grappa", while Able Company Soldiers secured overwatch positions.
Under the moonlight, approximately 150 American and Afghan soldiers flew into Kunar's Narang Valley aboard CH-47 Chinooks and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The Soldiers, under the protection of Apache attack helicopters, were safely delivered from Camp Wright in Asadabad to five separate landing zones.
First platoon Soldiers were tasked with being the support element for the ANA soldiers. The paratroopers exited the Black Hawk helicopters in tall wheat fields west of Bidal.
Burdened with heavy equipment, the Sky Soldiers began moving upward with the help of their night vision devices. After several hours of climbing high stone terraces, crossing dangerous terrain with 10-15 feet drop offs, 1st platoon arrived at their position.
"We've had reports that rebels have been moving through this village intimidating people and keeping weapons and supplies there, so they can take them up into the Korengal and Shuryak Valleys," said 1st Lt. Jason P. Levay, Platoon Leader for 1st Platoon. "I know this is not a peaceful area."
At first light, from beneath camouflage netting, the paratroopers watched as ANA soldiers began moving in the valley toward objective Grappa. The ANA soldiers made their way through a mostly dry river bed and proceeded to search one side of the village and then the other looking for weapon caches, contraband and insurgent safe-havens.
"While the ANA were clearing a house, they found two anti-personnel mines and some explosives. We arrested the guy, and airlifted him out of there later on that day," said Army Staff Sgt. Daniel C. Metcalfe, 25, from Rochester, N.Y., acting platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon.
In the afternoon, after the ANA soldiers had finished their search, an element of 1st platoon Soldiers led by Levay, climbed back down the mountainside and met up with the ANA soldiers in one of the village compounds.
Levay conducted a key leader engagement with some village elders. He stressed the importance of working with the Afghan government and Able Company Soldiers, saying it was the way to foster local community development and economic prosperity throughout Afghanistan.
"We made some progress with some good key leader engagements getting them closer to the coalition side of the house," said Metcalfe.
Later in the evening, acting on intelligence that stated there were more enemy fighters in the area, the mission was extended 24 hours. Helicopters arrived and flew the Soldiers to 2nd Platoon's position, where they were re-supplied.
Throughout the next 24 hours, Able Company, with the help of close air support, had several sightings of the enemy. They fired artillery, mortars and dropped bombs on the enemy positions.
In the afternoon, a maneuver element of ANA soldiers and an element from 2nd platoon were sent to investigate and search several suspicious looking structures a kilometer away on the mountainside.
This apparently struck a nerve with insurgents in the area. On the way back, the ANA soldiers were fired on from a nearby mountain. The enemy fired about 50 rounds from a PKM machine gun. No one was injured and Able Company paratroopers proceeded to drop mortars on the enemy's location, eliminating the threat.
Despite the inherent dangers of conducting missions along the border with U.S. forces, Maj. Atiqullah, 40, from Kabul, 1st Company commander with 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade remains firmly resolved to continue the mission of helping to secure his country.
"I like this type of mission and would love to go clear all the villages and fight with any enemies," said Atiqullah.
The love of their job was also apparent in the Able Company Soldiers.
"We had the insurgents pretty confused because they couldn't figure out if we were still in the village or if we had left the village; if we were still on the mountain or if we had left the mountain," said Metcalfe. "All in all, it was a pretty good success out there. It's what we do, and it was a pretty good feeling coming back."